Skip to comments.Why Conservatives Have Lost the Political Battle for America’s Soul
Posted on 04/19/2012 12:14:56 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
This was posted on one of GaryNorth.com forums.
The battle for America’s political soul is always fought on the battlefield of federal politics. That’s why conservatives lose, generation after generation.”
Dr. North, would you please elaborate on this, why you believe the battle for America’s political soul is fought in Federal politics and why it is that conservatives continue to lose, generation after generation?
From the time of the ratification of the United States Constitution, American politics shifted to the national level. One of the things that I realized late in my career, even though I had been trained as an historian of the colonial period, was this: it is virtually impossible to write a history of the United States after 1788 without dividing it into four-year segments. Presidential election years set the tone for the direction of the country, and this has been true ever since the early 19th century, when the federal government’s share of the economy was minimal. It is not a matter simply of money; it is a matter of political legitimacy. Issues of legitimacy are much more important than issues of taxation. Legitimacy tells what the taxes will be spent on. That is far more important than the amount of taxes collected.
The problem is this: voting for the President, who is the only representative of all the people, is functionally a covenantal act. People ratify a particular President, and in doing so, they transfer authority and legitimacy to him and to his administration.
Prior to the ratification of the Constitution, these events were limited to state and local governments, and before that to colonial governments that were technically under the authority of the King of England. Politics was local, and the great issues of the day were also local. These issues differed from state to state, or from colony to colony.
There was no national civil government. There was no national political issue that confronted citizens in every region. Because there was no national government, there was no means of covenant ratification, which first took place in 1788. There was no means of covenant renewal nationally. So, people did not think of themselves as Americans; they thought of themselves as residents of their particular state.
It is difficult to write a history of the United States politically prior to 1775. Other than the American Revolution, there were no national political events. There were so many different colonies, and so many different issues, that the focus of the historian of necessity moves to issues of economics, social institutions, literary trends, political theory in general, marriage patterns, church planting, and basically nonpolitical issues. These are what conservatives regard, at least in theory, as the central issues of civilization.
The problem with political conservatives today is that the Constitution created a national government, and this national government has the power to tax. It has grown systematically and without reversal since 1788. The issues of the day are increasingly those of national politics, because the federal government extracts a greater percentage of the public’s wealth than any other single institution. When there is that much loot to be divvied up, everybody wants to get his hands into the pile of loot. In taking this money, the government legitimizes certain activities of the government, and these activities steadily replace private institutions and local governments. The money that the government collects baptizes the various proposals that special interest groups have for national renewal. Renewal is seen as political. It takes a lot of money to redo the whole nation.
Conservative social thought de-emphasizes politics. This is why conservative social thought never gains much of the hearing in the modern world. The modern world is so obviously political, and the power of central governments is so great over every area of life, that all issues become politicized. The traditional conservative opposition to the very suggestion of political salvation is co-opted by their enemies. Conservatives over and over go out to vote as if their votes will fundamentally change the nature of American society. Ultimately, this cannot be true if conservative social theory is correct. Ultimately, the political institutions represent the people, and the great issues of daily life are not political; they are social, ethical, economic, ecclesiastical, and educational. The great issues of life are not political, yet at the same time the central government is pushing its way into every area of life. It is politicizing that which was not political prior to the Enlightenment.
So, the conservative faces a dilemma. He wants to make the case for a particular national political candidate in terms of conservative values, but conservative values tell him that no political candidate can do much of anything to make the country any better. If the essence of social life is nonpolitical, which is what the conservative says is the case, then how can an election every four years fundamentally change the foundations of American life?
I always quote the letter written by political activist Paul Weyrich in 1999, in which he specifically said that we have lost the culture war, which ultimately is an ethical war. He did not see how politics could roll back the debauchery that America has become. He did not think that anything that could be done at the federal level through politics could fundamentally reverse what Robert Bork called slouching towards Gomorrah.
The liberal believes in something like political salvation. He believes in political healing of every area of life. He believes that federal power, coupled with federal money, can make society better. Therefore, he is active in politics, he puts faith in politics, and he puts a whole lot of money in politics. He sees political mobilization is the heart of social transformation. He becomes highly skilled at getting votes. He becomes a master at political fund-raising. He has all of the skills that a professional has in any field, and he is up against conservatives whose very philosophy of life militates against political salvation and hard-core political mobilization.
So, every four years the conservatives go off to vote, telling themselves that this is going to change something fundamental in the country. It never does. It can accelerate certain trends. But, given what George W. Bush did to the budget deficit, and given what he did in Middle Eastern wars, it is hard to make a case that the election of Al Gore would have made America far worse than it is today. The great thing about Al Gore was that he was indecisive. He did not trust his gut in the way the George W. Bush trusted his.
I suppose the best example in my lifetime was Franklin Roosevelt’s decision in 1944 to replace Henry Wallace with Harry Truman as Vice President. Henry Wallace was the most radical political figure ever to advance to national politics. He was further to the left than Huey Long. He would have replaced Roosevelt in April of 1945. Had he done so, America would be a far better place to live in. Harry Truman personally imposed the modern national security state. It was Truman who created the CIA. It was Truman who created the foundation of the Department of Homeland Security. It was Truman who expanded America’s Empire around the world. It was Truman who got us into the Korean War, and would not even call it a war, never gaining congressional approval. Wallace would never have been able to get that through Congress, because conservatives in Congress would have opposed him. Everybody knew how far to the left he was, and he had no national constituency of his own. Conservatives looked at Truman in preference to Wallace. They make that sort of mistake all the time.
So, the conservative movement by its own nature is not an effective political competitor. Because local issues are far more tied to social issues, where conservatives say a country is established, they are better equipped to fight political battles of the local level than liberals are. Liberals look to Washington for salvation; conservatives ought to look to county government as a barrier against the expansion of the federal government into their lives. But they do not know the philosophy of local government which undergirded the foundation of this nation, beginning in the colonial era, and extending even through the period immediately preceding the ratification of the Constitution. That legacy has got to be restored, and conservatives have got to adopt it. If they do not adopt it, we are simply going to get more of the same, until the federal government finally goes belly-up.
Sadly, I think that is what is going to happen. I do not think most conservatives are going to spend the time, money, and effort to build up local resistance governments at the county level to step in when Washington’s checks bounce. They will have to do it after the Great Default.
A couple of years of famine ought to take care of that.
For those still alive.
Would it be harmful to discuss an orderly secession of States no longer willing to take part in the contemporary Federal government? Is it legal?
I don’t believe we’re going to see Obama ousted in November, and I’m urging everyone to have contingency plans for just such an event. America, as we’ve known it, is going to cease to exist, I fear. If our State representatives and governors don’t step up to stop the uncontrolled ascent of the Federal government, State sovereignty will mean nothing.
Americans today don’t know what it was like to live in this country when responsibility mattered. They want one nanny state to rule them all, and they’re getting it, damn the consequences.
America’s epitaph will read: United States of America, 1775 - 2012. Cause of death: voter stupidity.
Because too many of us are enamored with the idea of getting a government check every month.
And too many businesses enamored with the idea of using a little lobbying to tilt the whole playing field in their direction.
Good grief what a vacuous piece of tripe this write up is.
Does the writer and his ignorant interviewee not remember someone named Ronald Reagan? Margaret Thatcher? Karol Józef Wojtya?
Conservatives are losing now because the Tea Party declared war on the GOP establishment in the 2010 GOP primaries. They are losing only because the GOP-e decided to fight back and in so doing revealed themselves for what they really are. What the GOP-e really is has to do with their role in the Ruling Class; they are a subsidiary of the democrat party who has the control of the Ruling Class Party.
Conservatives have been duped into thinking that the GOP was a separate and distinct party from the democrats when in fact the democrats and GOP-e make up the Ruling Class against Country Class with the GOP-e having a smaller influence.
Romney is a liberal democrat with a ‘R’ label. He has taken or is taking the GOP away from conservatives. The conservatives have no political party except the loose amorphous Tea Party which they attempt to bind to the GOP.
It really boils down to an organized political class divided into ‘R’ and ‘D’ but both of which make up the Ruling Class of which the ‘D’ controls and the GOP-e is a tag along tolerated token to an allusion of a multi-party political system.
What causes confusion is that from time to time the conservatives produce great leaders who turn the Ruling Class on its head. At such moments then conservatives own the GOP and great things happen. Values are reborn, pride in America reemerges, global prestige is reestablished.
We will have other such moments but maybe not in 2012 for the presidency. In 2016 maybe we as conservatives will have a great leader emerge to give the GOP back to its rightful owners, the conservatives.
At such time that a great conservative leader emerges that is capable of swaying voters to give the conservative brand a chance, the more important question will be how to keep that trust? How to keep it especially in light of a NY media that day after day chips away at the reputation of the standard bearer?
Given that we are “represented” by members of our own communities, one could argue that it was death by suicide.
Exactly the same situation with Mitt vs. Obama. With Mitt, the Republicans will rubber-stamp every "center-left" thing he wants to do. With Obama, the Republicans will oppose a lot more of the far-left stuff he wants to do. An activist center-left government gets worse results than gridlock between a far-left executive branch and a center-right Congress.
Incremental VS Hail Mary.
I beg to differ. In the past few decades, government at all levels have been growing at cancerous rates. Government parasites at all levels have been relentlessly issuing new regulations, sadistically harassing citizens and enriching themselves with gold plated pension plans.
Anyone with an open eye can see that government power has been growing at an ever increasing rate. I believe we are at the point that only the foolishly naive would think electing a "strong Conservative" as President will solve anything.
Something very big will happen, either soon, in 5 years or 10 years. The Parasites of both parties will try their best to have the decay happen slowly over time, until our Republic is no longer recognizable.
I have nothing but utter contempt for those of any party who worship at the Alter of State Power. For they are enemies of our Constitution and enemies of God. If they succeed in destroying all we have, then I pray they are shown no mercy when our Republic rises from the ashes. May ALL the politicians of today, all the judges, all the sadistic workers at the EPA and other Federal agencies be put in non air-conditioned prisons out West breaking big rocks into little rocks for a long time. As added punishment, may they have to endure looking at nightly repeats of Sarah's acceptance speech at the GOP convention in 08 :) [Her speech totally annoyed Statists of all stripes -- I loved it]
That far off? My target is when the federal debt hits $20 Trillion in 2-3 years.
I’d say they’ve lost the battle because they were out played and out organized.
They lost control of instutitions which are now being used to manufacture liberal and communist drones. Those include the media, education, entertainment, heck, pretty much everything.
As soon as talk radio hosts die of old age or talk radio itself is dealt with, there will be pratically no source of conserative philosophy that is easily accessible.
And on top of being defeated as badly as they have been, conservatives, for the most part and especially elected republicans, don’t seem to have a clue that they are even in such a battle, or if they do, they have given up and joined the other side because they know they are done.
I don’t think you differ actually. What I took issue with is the title “Why Conservatives Have Lost .....”
Conservatives have not lost and never will lose. Conservatives are disorganized and presently confused at how soeone like Romney can take their party from them.
The reason I invoked the names of Reagan, Thatcher and Pope JP II is because at the beginning of their time the media was blasting away at them with the same refrain “You can’t defeat the Soviets” etc. You must “appease the Soviets”, etc.
So now we have “The Conservatives Have Lost ....”.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
This is one of the most incredibly stupid statements ever written.
North has no way of knowing how things would have played out with Henry Wallace in the White House. Wallace was Stalin's man, tied to all the Stalinist front groups, and a thoroughgoing Communist. He was redder than Obama, and that's saying a lot.
Making a call on a Wallace-GOP slugfest in the 40's, given FDR's, Bill Clinton's, and Obama's successes in simply issuing E.O.'s to all and sundry as if they were imperial ukases, is an epic exercise in moral hazard for any handicapper.
North is full of it.
Constitutional Conservatism is always about to be or is in the process of being hijacked by the religious right. As long as that goes on...always will be relegated to the back of the bus.
Conservative social thought de-emphasizes politics. This is why conservative social thought never gains much of the hearing in the modern world. The modern world is so obviously political, and the power of central governments is so great over every area of life, that all issues become politicized. The traditional conservative opposition to the very suggestion of political salvation is co-opted by their enemies. Conservatives over and over go out to vote as if their votes will fundamentally change the nature of American society. Ultimately, this cannot be true if conservative social theory is correct.
As I understand it, wanting to be left alone and wanting to change or fix things are two tendencies that pull in opposite directions and can cancel each other out. You see this in the conflict between libertarians and social conservatives.
Fewer people are liberals or progressives than conservatives, but liberals or liberalism, progressives or progressivism don't pull in contradictory directions: they're for social and economic change and want more government to force or impose change.
Conservatives, by contrast, have to overcome internal disputes over how much power to grant government to achieve conservative social goals, and this conflict reduces conservative effectiveness in politics.